Brooke - University of Lima

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2018
Peru definitely surpassed all of my expectations and gave me a completely unforgettable experience.

Academic experience

I was placed in the communications faculty, where I was able to study a broad range of classes like philosophy, art, literature, and Spanish language - all in Spanish. I enjoyed having the opportunity to branch out and try lots of new topics that I wouldn't usually have room for within my degree, and that all of my classes where with Peruvian students! The work offered was very different to anything I was used to, for example, we would create art that reflected ourselves and have to explain it to the class, or watch movies and analyse them, but this was a lot of fun for me. I found the workload much more intense than in Australia, especially due to the effort all students out in to their work, and the frequency of assessment, but I had a lot of support from my teachers, friends and international office to make sure I wasn't left behind.

Personal experience

Peru is an amazing place to go for an exchange if you want something completely new!! I had no idea of año of the amazing experiences coming my way when I decided to go to Peru, but on reflection, it was incredible for my personal development. I made friends not just with my Peruvian classmates, but also other Latin American exchange students from Colombia and Mexico, so I was able to get Spanish practice on our adventures together, from climbing Machu Picchu (a must!) to practicing the Marinera, to exploring traditional sweets festivals!

Accommodation

I lived in off campus accommodation (it's not currently provided), in a beautiful Spanish style share house called Villa Castin, in San Borja. Close to the uni and situated in a nice suburb with a LOT of shops (I still have many regrets of the nearby places I didn't have the time to visit!!), Flower gardens, and the city cultural center, I didn't often have a reason to leave! The house had a mix of Latin American and German exchange  students, as well as young Peruvian workers (almost all female), so it was  s great friendly (and quiet) environment for me as a student. Cleaning was included in  the price, and for a bit more there is  often a self contained apartment available (I loved it and fully recommend it!) And the house owner acted as my second  mother in Peru, bringing me soup when  i was sick and always being available for help. The university helped me find this accommodation and also would happily act on my behalf of any of the students needed any advocacy, which was great.
As far as housing goes, I would take the university recommendations as they are there to help. But I would avoid further away areas like Miraflores and beyond, as a few of my friends ended up leaving their bonds and moving into San Borja as the Lima traffic was just too much to handle from that distance.

Budget

Everything was amazingly cheap, I ended up getting a bit over excited and buying/eating too much just due to the fact it was so affordable!! Not counting travel and extra activities, I always had an excess of money left over from my Centrelink allowance, and didn't need to dip into any savings while there. Buses cost a few cents, Ubers a few dollars, a full meal in a proper restaurant will cost you $12, in a normal restaurant $7. My rent in the apartment was about $500 a month, and the other rooms in the house cost about $250-$300 for an indication of price. The main cost was Machu Picchu, as the train ticket and entry can be high, but the accommodation and food around it is very cheap.

Challenge

The challenges that come with living in a developing country can be surprising and confusing. One example of this was the fact that the buses had no timetables or set routes, the drivers would just shout where they were going and would turn up whenever. Getting places on time, and not getting lost, was a real problem, and it took a lot of help from the locals to get anywhere. After a few weeks though, I was confident and was able to get around on the system, and I'm still proud of it!!

Professional development

Studying in a new environment absolutely pushed me out of my depth and stretched the limits of my adaptability. I had to learn how to present in the Peruvian style, study their way, work in groups with students with different expectations (and languages) from me, and it I really had to reevaluate my own approach and work in with this new culture, lending me great intercultural communication skills. My Spanish skills have been tested in a university environment, where I was writing essays and presenting all in Spanish, and has given me confidence to use Spanish in day to day life and the workplace.

Highlight

 

Having the opportunity to join the Marinera club at the uni was one of the beds experiences I could have. As it was not a popular course with exchange students, the Peruvian students were so excited to have me and spent a lot of time helping and dancing with me, and we would all then go out to have dinner afterwards. The Marinera itself is a very elegant, romantic dance, and it was really exciting to have opportunities to perform with our groups (very Instagramable). I can't recommend it enough, as it's free for students and the professor is a very talented professional.

Top tips

  • Give Peru a shot! In the first place, don't hold on to any image or expectation you have of Peru. Of course there are shanty towns and rough areas here, but more than that is a bustling nightlife! Thriving art and museum districts, hipster cafes, amazingly romantic date locations, beautiful Spanish era architecture, and ancient ruins all in one city! There is so much more than than I ever imagined, and think it's definitely worth considering for exchange.

  • Be flexible, and let things go. Everyone will be late all the time, traffic will be insane, and there will be other challenges. As long as you have a good attitude, there will be people to help you or things works out.

  • SAY YES. If someone (someone you know) invited you to something, to travel or dinner or activities, say yes! It's always cheap in Peru, and everyone is keen to show you the best time, so go along.

  • Try Peruvian clubs! A lot of things will seem easier and more familiar to you, like Yoga and sports, but there are many traditional dance and music clubs available to you, so definitely give them a go!! There will always be someone at your level, and everyone was so keen to help me take part.

  • Always carry change, people won't always take large notes on public transport or small stands.

  • Uber is the safest way to get around, not 100%, but what all of my friends would use instead of a regular taxi service. It's very cheap as well.

  • Don't live in Miraflores because you'll only make friends with English speakers.

Advice about personal safety
I definitely didn't feel overly safe in Lima. I witnessed crime on a weekly basis and was just lucky that  it never happened to me. Lots of pick pocketing and so on, but some of my friends were held up in a taxi. Men can be very predatory there,  with a lot of catcalling and in some instances groping on the streets and buses. This  happened more to  girls who wore skirts (of any length) than jeans, and more to blonder girls. Even if I was with my boyfriend men would still approach me. Thankfully the uni goes through safety tips on the first day  of the Spanish course.  As for the uni, you need ID to enter the campus, security guards on almost every floor and on the grounds, and security cameras made the campus one of the places I felt fully secure in Peru. With some common sense and preparation, you can be fine, but definitely always be alert.